An amazing portrait of the deadliest animal on planet earth, the mosquito, carriers of some of the deadliest diseases known to man & beast, has kept the secret of their success for finding prey for eons, until now.
Geneticists have found a scent-sniffer protein molecule in mosquito antennae that — if somehow jammed — might leave a bloodsucker confused about whether we’re human enough to bite.
Insects evolved odor detection separately from vertebrates, and the six-legged version is “very complex,” DeGennaro says. Mosquitoes rely on three families of odor-sniffing proteins that have overlapping abilities to identify groups of airborne chemical compounds. Proteins called ionotropic receptors, which include IR8a, target acids among other compounds. As a mosquito hunts, the floating chemical cues get combined with other information such as atmospheric heat, moisture and the sight of something biteable. DeGennaro calls carbon dioxide “mosquito coffee,” revving the insects up to get to work seeking a meal.
As an aside, yours truly, unlike his beloved wife, exudes a succulent scent, able to draw in expectant mother mosquitoes in ways that truly boggle the mind. :)